Parenting: Should parents push their babies to reach 'milestones'?

Parents are often reminded that babies develop at their own pace.

Founder of the BabyGym Institute, Dr Melodie de Jager says babies should not be compared with each other, as the conditions under which each baby develops, are different.

The neurodevelopmental specialist emphasizes though, that every baby's brain needs stimulation and that movement is key.

Movement is the key ingredient in developing the brain. So the more the baby moves, the greater the chance that a child will be able to sit still and learn and concentrate when they go to Grade 1 when they're six and a bit years old.

Dr Melodie de Jager, Neurodevelopmental specialist and founder of BabyGym Institute

We mustn't forget that baby milestones we might consider basic, like breathing and feeding, she says, are to be celebrated.

Always think of baby milestones in terms of brain development. Each time a baby reaches a milestone, the moment a baby is born and the baby can breathe, that's a milestone. But you can't breathe without your muscles. The moment the baby can feed, can suckle properly, that's a huge milestone that should be celebrated.

Dr Melodie de Jager, Neurodevelopmental specialist and founder of BabyGym Institute

If a brain is not developing properly, a baby is not reaching its milestones.

Dr Melodie de Jager, Neurodevelopmental specialist and founder of BabyGym Institute

She says a whole number of factors can influence at what age a specific baby reaches a specific milestone.

People shouldn't compare, or use a child that says at five months this, at six months that, because it depends on so many things. If a baby was hospitalised for instance, that baby's development is influenced, they go a little bit slower.

Dr Melodie de Jager, Neurodevelopmental specialist and founder of BabyGym Institute

Then there's this beautiful thing of personality. Some people are natural talkers... because it's one of the things we find at the BabyGym Institute is that some babies talk faster and some walk earlier. You know why - because it depends whether the left or the right side of the brain is more dominant, because the one side is more verbal and it's about having your needs met. So if I can go and fetch my bottle, why would I ask. If I can ask somebody to fetch my bottle, why would I move?

Dr Melodie de Jager, Neurodevelopmental specialist and founder of BabyGym Institute

To hear more of this insightful discussion, listen below:


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